Tears for Tamir Rice

I wasn’t planning on writing anything today, I was just too tired from working all of the holiday weekend. But this is my hot take on #TamirRice.

A Grand Jury today decided that no officer will be indicted for the MURDRER of a TWELVE year old boy, Tamir Rice. On video, police pull up on scene, get out of their car with guns drawn and shoot this little boy down. On tape, they don’t comfort him. On tape they leave him lying dead on the ground. On tape they explicitly ignore and dehumanize a twelve year old boy.

Multiple things don’t add up. Tamir was playing with a BB gun without a black tip (in Ohio,an open carry state), neighbors called the police and said a boy was playing with a toy gun but was shooting things so they expected the police to show up and talk to him, tell him not to be shooting his BB gun around people. Instead, they didn’t say a word, just opened their car door and came out guns drawn and opened fire. They claim he pointed the gun at them, on the video I saw he did not. He wasn’t living long enough to point the gun at them. The prosecution explained how even though he was twelve, he was big for his age and looked like an adult (see: Trayvon Martin), the defense broke down why black children don’t get to be children. Why black people are not allowed to be humans.

Twelve years old is a child. At twelve years old I was still scared to say curse words within 100 feet of my house. At twelve years old I still played Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon. At twelve years old I didn’t think anything of BB guns besides toys. At twelve years old, a buddy and I used to play with BB guns at his house all of the time. If a cop had pulled up, and opened fire on me, would people be justifying my murder? Would I be big for a 12 year old (Tamir wore size 36 jeans supposedly, I wore a 32)? Would I be a threat? Would a grown adult, a trained white cop be justified in saying he feared for his life when they saw me? Would the BB gun be what put that fear in him, or would it have been my blackness? Would my mom and dad have to watch as their now deceased little boy was called everything but a little boy by a nation of people and their government?

Blackness scares the state. State violence against black people is evidently on camera and somehow prosecutors still turn the trial into a discussion on whether or not black lives matter. When Trayvon Martin died, the discussion wasn’t about George Zimmerman, but about Trayvon. Same for Tamir. Why is this case labeled the Tamir Rice trial, when Tamir isn’t on trial? What’s the name of the officer who murdered him? What’s the name of his partner who watched him do it? What size pants des he wear? Did he like to play cops and robbers? Are we going to overanalyze his life and dehumanize him in front of his parents? Black people don’t get to be children. We don’t get the same passes that white children/people get. Had that child been white, the NRA would have thrown a fit (given that Ohio is an open carry state, so Tamir having the gun isn’t enough to justify the shooting). People would be outraged. But instead a twelve year old is a thug. Not a child. Not a human.

Rest in power Tamir. Peace to your family in this trying time. May our tears and your death not be in vain. I’m sorry your state failed you. I’, sorry your country failed you. I hope one day it doesn’t fail my own son.

We matter. I don’t care how much the state tells us we do not.

“Is it genocide? Cause I can still hear his momma cry.”

-Kanye West

#Trump2016

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”

My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

“…total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

 

39%. The man quoted above is leading the Republican Party’s primary election with 39% of the vote*. I won’t go into a dramatic tirade about how racist or horrible Donald Trump is. We know that. He is incredibly racist. He disrespects women and the disabled. So who are these voters? Many have told me it’s just the extreme parts of the GOP. That’s fine. But about 40%? Keep in mind that the passionate are the ones who most often vote. Voter turnout in America hovers around 58%. Young people vote less than anybody**. Your uncle at Thanksgiving who says racist things sometimes but means well is the guy most likely to vote in primaries and the general election, by the numbers.

We all know the facts, if we want to know them. So rather than pour more and more out, I will simply make a few predictions:

  • Donald Trump will win the Republican Primary
  • Ted Cruz will be the last candidate to make a surge then fall back
  • GOP Candidates remain staunch about not dropping out, ego will split votes letting Trump walk into a win
  • Trump continues to rally white nationalism into November, 2016
  • With every racist comment Trump makes, backlash follows. This will not stop, and it is dangerous (i.e. violence against black people at Trump rallies; violence against Muslim people and Sikhs in U.S.)
  • He loses the general election to Hillary Clinton
  • The Republican Party is severely damaged after Trump’s shit throwing method loses the election
  • Republican voters who up until the primaries have disregarded Trump, will be forced to choose between him, their arch nemesis Hillary Clinton or a third-party option (Ralph Nader circa 2000)
  • They will choose that third-party option costing the GOP the election

 

If I’m wrong about any of these in the coming months, I will own them. Check back for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/trumps-poll-numbers-hit-a-new-high-589311043727

**http://www.electproject.org/home/voter-turnout/demographics

How I learned to love my blackness. And yours*

College was a turning point. By default at a predominantly white institution (PWI), I quickly was absorbed into the black group on campus. We only had a handful of black students, so we stuck together. For the first time I had peers who listened to my music. Watched my television shows and movies. Lived some of my shared experiences. I felt comfortable. I watched my friends be unapologetically black, and it was new for me. It was a comfort I had no intention of relinquishing. But I also knew in the real world, outside of my group, outside of my circles, how we were looked at. When we were loud at the lunch table, the stares would ensue. The not witty hip hop references continued. But maybe black culture was just different, although their looks clearly let us know they believed it to be worse, lesser. Then I witnessed the 2012 election at a PWI.

“God wouldn’t call a black man to be president.”

“Who voted this nigger into office?”
“You voted for Obama, you must be really ignorant.”

And I wasn’t even who voted for him. Two of my friends did.

Adulthood reminded me at every turn that the experience I had lived and would live, the one my father had lived, and the one my kids would live, isn’t the same as my white peers. Maybe being respectable wasn’t enough. President Obama was raised by a white mother, went to an Ivy League school and became president. But he was still a nigger? What did that mean for me?

I learned that blackness couldn’t be undone by even the grandest of achievements. But still, being black is harder but it’s bearable if you can blend in just right. No immediate threat was posed. Then Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a white man in a neighborhood not too far from where I grew up. Not too far from where my brother could be driving. Not too far from where my best friend could be hanging out. Not too far from where my sister could be walking down the street, because she likes Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles too…but, no, the case was obvious. So what if a law says you can protect yourself with a gun in Florida? Trayvon was a kid, what threat could he pose that would require a gun? Zimmerman was an evil person who did an evil thing. But the Facebook posts, the articles, the thinkpieces written ad nauseam, about how Trayvon Martin had weed at school one time. Trayvon Martin got suspended once. He was a thug. A thug? What did that even mean? But more importantly, why were all of the people I knew who often touted me as their black friend, their example of their lack of prejudice, arguing that this child deserved to die? I thought Zimmerman was on trial. It then begged the question, what if that was Nayquan? What would they say about my brother because he had been arrested before? Would his mugshot be spread around the internet for all white people to judge? Would his humanity be denied too? What about mine? Who is on trial when a white person kills a black person.

“Tamir Rice had a fake gun and pointed it at police.” Although the video clearly showed otherwise.

“Mike Brown was charging that police officer, plus he stole from that store.” The punishment for theft is now murder?

“Sandra Bland should not have been talking back.” Being the angry black woman is now worthy of death.

Our culture sets blackness as less than whiteness. It’s evident in all levels. Socially, legally, economically etc. It does not always come in the form of the racist with the white hood. Sometimes it’s the customer who explains to you why Black Lives Matter is just a bunch of thugs, or why the confederate flag isn’t racist. Blackness is under fire quite often, once you look around.

I learned blackness is deeper than slang, than music, than culture, than my hair or name. Blackness was a badge I will always wear, regardless of how much I chase the approval of my white counterparts. So, if I’m black regardless, what am I suppressing? If they’re going to deny me a job opportunity because my name is Dashaun, shoot me down because I talk back, judge my brother because his skin is brown, and assume my father is angry because that’s just how black people are, then what am I running from?  Pride in being black is important, because even if you hate it passionately, you are still counted amongst us. So why not opt to love yourself? Love yourself not in spite of being black. When you love your own blackness, you can simultaneously learn to love the blackness in others. Find strength in the culture and amongst peers. The worst thing a black man can be is not ghetto in the eyes of his peers. He’ll be that regardless. The worst thing a black man can be is in denial. To be apologetic for what he is.

“Black excellence. I love us.”

-Jay-Z, Murder to Excellence

 

*”I love my blackness. And yours.” was a recurring phrase tweeted by black activist, and Baltimore mayoral candidate Deray McKesson. 

How I learned not to love my blackness. And yours.

They say to talk about what you know. So for my first venture into public writing, I’ll write about what I learned. I’m not saying if it’s right or not. Just something I learned.

Black people make up less than 20% of America’s population, just by the numbers it’s more likely I will interact with people who don’t look like me, far more than my white peers will interact with somebody who doesn’t look like them.

Sitting in eighth grade U.S. History class. There’s only three other black students in the Gifted/Pre-IB program. Your group, in which nobody else is black, gets assigned Virginia for your colonies project. Immediately your group mate suggests “Well we HAVE Dashaun, we can use him as a model slave.”

 What do you do?

Most people say they would fight him. Some tell me they would tell a teacher or their parents. But if you’re one of less than a handful of black kids in the program, you know how it plays out. You tell. Student gives a nonsense apology. Other student merges back into the group of students. No harm done to his reputation. However you, you are now that kid. You’re the kid who can’t take a joke. Can’t handle a little poking and prodding. So you say nothing. You uncomfortably laugh as your blackness becomes the base of the joke again.

“Watermelon flavor for you right Dashaun?”

“I know what Dashaun wants, fried chicken I bet.”

“What do chicken and waffles taste like Dashaun?”

“So you’re Black and Puerto Rican? You must be like a spic-a-nigger then?”

“Ewww, no I don’t like you, you’re black.”

“Black guys just aren’t cute.”

“Why do you wear sneakers? Keeping them clean looks stupid. What a stupid waste of money.”

“Hip hop is just about drugs and sex. How shallow.”

These might sound harmless. Or maybe they sound appalling. Depends on your perspective. To me, they’re just middle school and high school. But they also set a premise. Became the foundation of most of my interactions up into college, just learn to take the joke. Laugh at it. At least if you laugh you fit in. Never mind the clear and distinct mocking of your culture, ethnic socioeconomic trends and your BLACKNESS in general. But at 13, you just take notes. You learn that blackness is bad. It’s to be mocked. Let them have their fun because it’s better to blend in then stand up and fight back. Yeah I’m black, but that doesn’t mean I can’t laugh too right?

So you learn to do things in a way that people don’t perceive as being “too black”. Blackness is scary. Blackness is ghetto. And once they’ve decided you’re ghetto, it’s over*.

Pick Vans over Jordan’s at the store, never mind that you enjoy sneaker culture, that’s too ghetto. Learn to be passive, back down at every opportunity, you don’t want to be the angry black guy. When asked, you’re Puerto Rican first, Black second. If it’s your turn to pick the music, play country or maybe a rapper from the radio. Don’t want to play ghetto music.

                Blackness is living every day knowing that you are one of two things in the minds of your peers. You are a ghetto thug. Or you’re a “white black guy”. Never mind that you like the new Kobe’s AND the new TOMS. Regardless of if you enjoy comic books or Kanye West. You get to be one. So pick. The options are not as simple as a Disney Channel lesson about being yourself. Yourself is black. And black isn’t good. The worst thing a black man can be in the eyes of his white peers is ghetto. That is a label that will follow you no differently than if you were the smelly kid on the bus. It takes years to undo, or at best a change of scenery. So you learn to revel in being “white”, or maybe you learn to revel in not being labeled as “black”.

“Yeah you’re black, but you talk white.”

“You dress so white.”

“Dashaun is black isn’t he? Yeah, but he’s basically white.”

I would revel in these “compliments”. My greatest honor came in having white people count me among them. And I certainly swung as far right as possible. Republican. Conservative. I went as deep as I could, believing all of the oppression black people face to not apply to me because they saw me as respectable**. I centered myself around the things I was in spite of being black. Around the things I had in common with my peers, while trying to push down all the things that made us different.

But those things that made us similar, those would save me from the harassment by police, except that time a cop followed me home and then questioned me in my own neighborhood because there had been some break-ins.

Those things would save me from stereotyping, except when a girl’s dad called me a spic, and referred to me as that “black kid”, but never by name.

Those things would save me from being dehumanized, except when my hair became the thing to pet every day.

Those things made me different.

Right?

*understand any perspective expressed is that of a young 13 year old boy

**see “Respectability Politics”